REVIEW: Fall For Dance Festival 2013 at New York City Center | Program 1
The Fall For Dance festival, currently celebrating its tenth year, aims to create “a context for discussion, discovery and newfound enthusiasm” for a diverse audience (Susan Reiter’s program notes), offering low ticket prices and a range of accessible, international dance. This year’s roster offers twenty companies over the course of a dozen performances in two venues, and highlights three world premieres commissioned by the festival.
The first of these commissions to premiere was Justin Peck’s The Bright Motion, performed by Sara Mearns (New York City Ballet) and Casey Herd (Het Nationale Ballet). I believe that the core of the earth can be found somewhere around Mearns’ spine. Endless length emanates from her center, through fire-dagger limbs and the kind of lines you could write a haiku about; elegant, yet impossibly direct and efficient. She is perhaps the most exciting American ballerina of her generation.
Herd gave a valiant performance, interpreting Peck’s unpredictable musicality with ease and providing steady, confident partnering. The Bright Motion seems to reveal something devastatingly intimate about the passion that goes into dancing, to movement, and Mearns commits to this vulnerability even in the most formal movement sequences, rather than lapsing into stoic classicism as a lesser artist might.
Portraying a different type of intimacy altogether was the dynamic partnership of Gabriel Missé and Analía Centurión. I don’t fully understand the tradition of performing those dance forms—such as tango—that are otherwise intended to be practiced with a partner or group. However, I’m no longer certain I care. Why do we watch dance? To live out unrealized fantasies? To have deep emotions evoked? To see the human body move in unexpected ways? Any of these desires would have been satisfied by Missé and Centurión’s performance (supported by the also excellent, albeit less exciting Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes). Missé and Centurión have choreographed tango into something theatrical, humorous, romantic, and utterly relevant. They are masters of the technique, showcasing jaw-dropping feats of agility and swiftness, but beyond that, they are generous performers, allowing the audience a look at a passionate and, yes, intimate style.
Richard Alston’s The Devil in the Detail, accompanied by Scott Joplin tunes played live by the buoyant pianist Jason Ridgway, is decidedly joyous. Barefoot, clad in Peter Todd’s garden party-esque costumes, Alston’s ebullient dancers careen through classical movement endowed with grounded undercurves, spiraling sequential turns, off-kilter arcs, and a demonstrated penchant for winding an action up, then unwinding it. They display articulate hands, arms, legs, and épaulement—how lovely it would be to see the same attentiveness applied to the spine, which on some begins to appear somewhat locked.
The program closed with DanceBrazil, a troupe of multifaceted dancers versed in contemporary movement, capoeira, and afro-Brazilian dance. Artistic Director Jelon Vieira adapted his Fé do Sertão for this engagement, and the collage-style result allows the performers’ versatility to come to the forefront. Michael Korsch’s brilliant lighting design filters across the stage as if through slats, suggesting a peek into a private world. Some movement sections are more effective than others; I’m thinking here of those elaborate, perfectly timed sequences of calibrated mayhem in the capoeira style, as opposed to attempts at group unison that fall just shy of clean enough to thrill. But these dancers, like almost everyone else on the City Center stage that evening, commit to every second and dance like hell. Newfound enthusiasm, indeed.